A front child seat for older kids

We have a history with front child seats. The first one we tried fell apart on the bike, nearly dropping my daughter back into traffic. That particular seat is really only appropriate for a certain kind of bike.

Yep, that's two kids on one Brompton bicycle. We are our own clown car.

My Brompton with one kid on the IT Chair and one on the rear rack (more stuff I don’t recommend doing even if it is a total blast)

But I do love front child seats. The one on my Brompton, which is infinitely more stable, is a joy to ride with both my kids. I still carry my son on it sometimes, who is now a tall seven year old and may not be able to ride it much longer. And for our real cargo bike we went all-front-seat-all-the-time and bought a Bullitt. It’s more fun for everyone with the kids in front. But it is often not cheap. There is an exception, however, which is the “stick a saddle on the top tube” option that I have now seen three parents using in San Francisco with older kids.

mountain bike + spare saddle on the top tube

mountain bike + spare saddle on the top tube

The first, a dad at Rosa Parks, literally slaps a spare saddle on his top tube, and his daughter rides it with her feet resting on the bike’s fork. She’s now in first grade, going on seven years old, and has been riding with her dad this way since preschool. Anyone with a spare saddle can do the exact same thing at their own risk.

The second, a mom at my son’s after-school program, has a much more solid looking saddle screwed to the top tube and footrests on the downtube. She has been carrying her first-grader on this rig at least since kindergarten. When I asked her where came from, she said, “Somewhere in Europe; I don’t know.” The third parent is a dad I’ve seen riding in Golden Gate Park with exactly the same setup carrying what looks to be a seven year old. I was very interested in this seat because it’s so rare to find front seats suitable for a kid over the age of three, other than the front seat specific to the Workcycles Fr8.

This is the Oxford Leco top tube seat (footrests not shown)

This is the Oxford Leco top tube seat (footrests not shown)

I have now found it. The seat these two parents are using is the Oxford Leco Top Tube Seat (with footrests), and as far as I can tell it’s only sold in the UK. I called My Dutch Bike in the Bay Area to see if they stocked it, and although they’d heard of it they said: No way. They noted that the seat was only appropriate for heavy city bikes and that typical American mountain and road bike frames would not safely support the weight. They wouldn’t sell it because they feared they’d be liable when some parent tried to mount it on a lightweight bike anyway (and you know someone totally would).

However there are some shops in UK that will ship to the US. Even with international shipping, it costs about $40. I could imagine putting it on a midtail and making it a real two-kid hauler; another dad who saw it wanted to put it on a Big Dummy. Here’s a family that put it on a regular bike with a rear seat to get two kids on one bike. They look crazy-good.

A final shout-out goes to the Brompton, carrying my four-foot-tall seven-year-old on the IT Chair.

A final shout-out goes to the Brompton, carrying my four-foot-tall seven-year-old on the IT Chair.

I thought I’d mention it because I suspect that other parents might want to do the same thing if they knew the seat existed. But if you want to try it, please be cautious. My Dutch Bike is right that this seat is most appropriate for a heavy bike, and the reviews on UK Amazon also suggest that it’s best suited for a bike with a flat top tube. Try something else, and like some unhappy British reviewers on Amazon UK, you too may end up complaining about how the seat dented the tube or slid down it, dropping the kid. The parents in San Francisco I’ve seen with this seat ride Dutch-style steel bikes. Parents on cargo bikes would probably be fine too. Someone riding a light American road or mountain bike or, worse, a cheap Walmart bike, will not. Please don’t make the same mistake I made, mount a child seat to an inappropriate bike, and drop your kid in traffic. If you do, I totally told you not to do it. Nonetheless, for people with the right kind of bike: interesting option, yes?


Filed under family biking

15 responses to “A front child seat for older kids

  1. Melissa

    Have you seen this seat:

    It’s a little more “enclosed” than the simple top-tube seats and can hold up to 45 lbs, so I think it would have more longevity than the Bobike Mini or the Ibert.

    What scared me away from all of these is the mount-dismount-stop-start issue. I consider myself a decent cyclist and I have enough trouble mounting- dismounting-stopping-starting with a step-through bike and two child seats. I think I would be inclined to buy a slightly-too-small bike to have a lower top tube. Unfortunately, that would generally mean a shorter top tube length, which means reduced knee clearance.

    I feel very lucky I was able to find a used Fr8 and that I live in an area where I don’t have any hills, so the weight of the bike isn’t as big a deal (btw, the Bobike Maxi is working great for us, thanks again).

    • That Bulldog seat is a great find Melissa! Thanks for sharing.

      Dorie, with any and all of these, they don’t look like they would be able to fit a fat wide top tube like we have. What are your thoughts? The saddles appeal to me the most for knee/thigh clearance, but even the enclosed seats, or those with straps seem to have some merit for my sleepy toddler. Thanks again, as always, for sharing great information.

      • The Leco says it comes with three sizes of attachment clamps going up to 34.9mm, which is the size of our fat Bullitt tubes. I don’t know if the Yuba tubes are bigger than that. There’s also the question of the oval tube shape on a Mundo would be a non-starter. I’d probably email one of the British retailers for their thoughts if I were seriously shopping for a front Mundo seat.

        I’ve carried both kids on the IT Chair and found that they’re so engaged in the ride–when they’re on a saddle they really believe they’re helping move the bike–that even a year ago only my daughter had gotten sleepy, and then only once. It wasn’t a big deal because she could rest her head on one of my arms.

    • That is a really nice-looking seat. I’m sure it would last longer than the any of the baby seats, too. I envy you the terrain that could handle a Fr8, which seems like a super-nice bike.

  2. Hi I think American people prefer an easy device to a comfortable one when they seat their child on bike. I found a funny family bike which has two seats, that I had ordered. I am looking for it. I will show you it on my blog soon.

  3. Mitsos

    Hi. One more seat you should definately check out is the “GMG Classic Rear 6+” it is for years 6+ and suitable for 35-40KG child (80lbs). Looks like a solid construction.


  4. Nicole

    Have you guys checked this out? I have a mixte frame, so a lot of these seats won’t work for me. I am hoping this will: http://www.tyketoter.com/

    • A friend of a friend did, and claimed that the seat bent with weight and never felt stable, so I did not investigate further. I’m kind of over front seats that don’t bolt down to the frame.

  5. Tim

    I used the Oxford Leco with my older daughter after she grew out of the Weeride. It’s interesting how important the foot-rests are for stability (despite being a really simple attachable bar).

    I used it on a standard hybrid – flat top-tube. You do need to ensure the bracket won’t snag external cabling. Generally it worked okay – especially considering the price – but the seatbelt is really trivial – that’s no five-point harness. The main issue was getting the clamp tight enough that I wasn’t worried about the whole thing sliding sideways round the top tube. There’s no bracing of any kind to keep it upright.

    Wondering about fitting it to the Edgerunner when I get it, to take five people (including me) in total. 🙂 This might be optimistic, and I certainly don’t want to risk damaging that frame!

  6. Oliver

    I’ve just bought an IT adaptor for my Brompton and would love to know what saddle you recommend – I’m planning on using it with my daughter who just turned three to cycle her to school about 10 minutes ride away. I was looking at the Oxford Leco as I like the look of the back rest and harness for some extra security – but now wonder if it will fit or not (slip, dent etc.) or perhaps there are other options?

    • A cheap saddle? We went to our local bike shop and asked them for a kid seat; they had only one in stock: sold! The Leco is fun too, but everyone we know who bought one took a hacksaw to get the back off, so I wouldn’t buy it for that reason.

  7. David

    This is a very old article… but still useful!

    We’ve tried things like a co-rider for up front (and still use it on the tandem), but nothing beats the seat on the top-tube. Just a piece of an old tire to keep the steel rails from digging in and two hose clamps. I did construct a footrest to go with it. My bike doesn’t have suspension or a fancy crown for a footrest. The problem with the co-rider and stuff for me is that after I drop the kids at daycare… I still have 10+ miles to go. (and 10+ miles to pick them up after work!)

    We (me and a 1yo and 3yo) use a cyclocross bike with a topeak babyseat2 and the ‘strap a bike seat to the top tube’ up front with PVC/U-Ubolt constructed foot rest–covered in a pool noodle. The real trick is finding a bike with a non-butted or hydro-formed Aluminum or straight gauge steel top tube. Can’t use carbon at all. It isn’t designed for the crushing of the top tube seat mount. Straight gage pipe handles it just fine. Just make sure that the steel can’t dig into the aluminum (old tire helps here)

    With my current setup, I can drop the kids and rear baby-seat at daycare and leave the top-tube seat mounted and still get to work with minimal fuss at 18+mph. (mainly in-the-road, not much dedicated bike infrastructure here in North Alabama–but not a lot of riders anyway.) Since the babyseat2 carries the rear child a little high, it has some impacts on stability, but with the second child on the front, the center of gravity moves down and the bike feels more stable than when I’m solo on it. This was not the experience on the tandem, so we trailer one child (burley delite–2015 model with spring suspension on the wheels) and the other goes in the co-rider.

  8. So grateful you tracked this down!
    I’m a DC bike messenger, looking for solutions to bring my child to preschool on the way to work (gas money cuts into meager pay, md dont like hassle of chucking my bike in/out of my trunk a few times a day)

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